Religion Has Become A Quirk

A recent WSJ headline read “The Month Business Went to War”. The article made the case that executives are taking much of the responsibility for the sanctions against Russia.

What interests me most was the opening line of the article:

About 10 minutes into Sunday church services, Visa Inc. Chief Executive Alfred Kelly looked down at his phone and saw a text message…Zelensky was trying to reach him.”

Above the fold. Saturday’s Exchange section of the Wall St. Journal. The best hook the journalist could come up with? An executive at church!

This isn’t the only recent example of this. Another headline touted that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett traveled to meet Putin on a Saturday — which is something he, a ritually observant Jew, would only do to save a life.

For a long time it’s felt like religion has been in a tug of war, caught somewhere between politics and money on the list of 3 things you aren’t meant to talk about but really want to. Now, though, it seems like money and politics are all anyone speaks about.

So where does that leave religion in the language of America in 2022?

On the one hand, it hasn’t lost its standing as an important part of American politics. Last president to have an ambiguous relationship with religion? Abraham Lincoln. On the other hand, much has been said about the banishment of religion from the university.

Photo by Francesco Alberti on Unsplash

So, just like many other hot topics, our institutions are polarized on how welcomed religion is within its halls.

But when did religion became a hook to an article about world economics the way a cute zoo animal may capture your interest for an article about immunobiology?

To be clear, it doesn’t bother me. I kind of like it. An executive at prayer services, how endearing.

Identifying as being part of a religion went from being for everyone, to being for your parents, to a taboo…and now, it seems to be coming back. I think those paying attention have seen this coming for a long time. In fact, people have even started noticing that the once seemingly godless temples of Silicon Valley are indeed filled with people who strongly identify with a religion, or perhaps spirituality.

The promise of the new quirkiness of religion is acceptance. If being religious is a fun fact then it should be accepted.

When I was reading the article that I mentioned above I wondered if Visa employees know that their CEO attends church on Sundays. Is that something he’d mention, anecdotally, in a town hall meeting? Do his closest deputies even know?

It feels to me that people are leaving their religious identities at home even as people continue to bring other aspects of their core identities to the forefront. You can imagine Visa’s CEO catching up with a colleague on a Monday morning, “Sunday was nice, we had brunch with my in-laws and then later in the day we caught our kids lacrosse game before heading to a charity event”…no mention of church, the one thing he’s done every Sunday his entire life (this is entirely an imagined scenario).

People may listen to that religious podcast or follow that religious Instagram account, but how often are they recommending that media to a friend? It still feels awkward….even though political and money podcasts are probably amongst the most recommended by friends.

Perhaps opening lines like the one above are a hint that things are changing.

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